Fruit and vegetable growers concerned by minimum wage increase

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 13 February 2019, 8:41AM

Fruit and vegetable growers are concerned over the cost of the upcoming minimum wage increase.

The Government has committed to increasing the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2020 with the next increase of $1.20 in April this year.

However, Export New Zealand says the next increase will force businesses with between 75 and 100 staff members, to come up with an extra $120,000 to $800,000 a year in wages.

Business NZ employer relations manager, Paul McKay told Mike Hosking the horticulture sector is particularly concerned because it can't pass the costs onto customers.

"If you put the price of a New Zealand apple up, they will buy Australian apples."

"The money has to come from somewhere and it's very hard to make that worked when you're squeezed."

He did acknowledge that it is hard for growers to find workers because of low wages, but he said it's a "double squeeze".

"There's always going to be some jobs at the bottom of the ladder because they are jobs with skills that anybody can do [but] there becomes a time when people say: 'I don't want to do that kind of work'."

McKay said the immigration squeeze is also adding pressure onto businesses.

"It's very hard to find youn New Zealanders to go and do that work and when we have an immigration squeeze...we start running short."

However, he said ultimately they need more workers willing to work.

"The more apples that get picked the cheaper it is for us [New Zealanders] and the cheaper it is overseas and more apples get sold."

Automation may be a long term solution but the technology isn't ready yet, he said.

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